Symbol Man

Hebrew - Beth

No worries, I am not following in the footsteps of Prince and becoming symbol man or the blogger formerly known as The Pastor. But if I were to become a symbol man or something of the sort, I like this one. Not just for is aesthetic appeal but for what this symbol refers to. So I am keeping this symbol in front of me.

So why the symbol?

The symbol is called a bet, and it is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

O.K., that makes sense but that still leaves more questions.

Hold on, there is more.

Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem. It is broken up into 22 sections of 8 verses (one section for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). Each verse within a particular section begins with that corresponding Hebrew letter. The section titled, bet, (the above symbol) refers to verses 9-16 which reads as follows:

(9) How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
(10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
(11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
(12) Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
(13) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
(14) In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
(15) I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
(16) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

These verses caught my attention yesterday as I was preparing devotions for our local radio station; particularly verse 9 about how to keep one’s way pure.

You see, (and you really don’t need me to tell you this), our world is filled with so many distractions. Satan is on the prowl, looking for someone to devour. Just yesterday I read about a pastor who got caught up in prostitution and was arrested. He said he had a moment of “great weakness”. I am not judging him but I can’t help but wonder if that weakness was due to taking his eyes off of God; by not guarding his way according to the Word of God.

I am not suggesting that I am tempted to engage in prostitution (and I am definitely not tempted) but there are other temptations that Satan uses to attempt to draw me away from God. We all face these attacks. Some battles we win and many we lose. And in those defeats I look to another symbol; one that points to God’s incredible love and grace:

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Forgiven, I live to continue to fight the fight of faith.

How?

By guarding it a according to the Word of God; by loving God’s Law; learning it; meditating on it; memorizing it; reading it. And keeping at it, for when you drift away from reading scripture you quickly forget, because we all have very short term memories when it comes to God’s Law and the Gospel.

Guarding one’s way can not be done through clever tricks or strength of mind or simple human will power. Guarding one’s way is only done through the strength of God through the Holy Spirit. The Word of God.

And so I am going to keep this symbol in front of me as a reminder to fight the fight of faith; guarding my way according to God’s Word. And you too, Christian, fight on, going in the strength of God, guarding your way according to His Word and clinging to God’s awesome grace in Jesus Christ.

Holy God, may I always keep Your Word in front of me; that I may not turn away and go astray. But when I do go astray, retrieve me as a shepherd hunting down a lost sheep and restore me to life. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor (a.k.a. Symbol man)  -|—

Avoiding the Legos

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Walking in a dark room can be a dangerous undertaking, especially in my home; one filled with toys from a 2 year old and an 8 month old. I have learned the hard lesson to never take for granted safe passage through our dark living room. I either use my smart phone or activate the screen on my Fitbit to cast just enough light to guide my path.

[In case you’re wondering why I don’t turn a lamp on – my little girl’s room is right off the living room with only French doors and a curtain to keep the light out]

And to travel through this dark world without the light of God’s Word is also a dangerous undertaking; but for far worse reasons than simply stubbing your toe or stepping on a Lego. God’s Word lights the path of righteousness that we are to walk .

“You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake”
(Psalm 23:3)

For when darkness descends upon us, Satan is going to be quick to be a false guide to lead you away, or worse yet ~ Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour(1 Peter 5:8) It’s only the light of God’s Words that is going to reveal Satan’s evil schemes to deceive you (or devour you).

I can think of a few times in my life when darkness descended upon me but the Spirit led me to the light of God’s Word:
~ After our failed adoption I was lead to the Psalms (lament and praise)
~ After the Charleston shooting last week I was lead to 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.
~ After a rough morning with my 2 year old I was lead to Matthew 4.

God’s Word was indeed a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
God’s Word shined a light on the prowling lion waiting to devour me.
God’s Word shined a light to keep me on the right path when the path of bitterness seemed like a good way.
God’s Word shined a light on the righteousness won for me through Jesus.
God’s Word shined brightly in the darkness to cast away my fears.

So never think you know how to navigate dark times. Just because you may have been there before, never take for granted that you know the path. It’s in that complacency that you will step on the proverbial Lego and turn away. Activate the light of God’s Word in your life to avoid stepping on those Legos as you follow the path of righteousness no matter how scary the path may look; trusting God’s Word and not your fears.

Holy God, I am in awe that you would give us Your holy Word. May we use the light of Your Word to guide our way and trust the path that is revealed. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Be Fooled (2 Cor 11:14)

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. [2 Corinthians 11:14]

Paul here is defending himself, and his colleagues, against the attacks of those who claim to be “super apostles” but really are leading people astray. Basically he says they are nothing more than wolves in sheep clothing. And this makes sense because even Satan does this so why wouldn’t Satan’s servants do the same.

Satan was active and working hard to stop the church then and he continues to do the same today. And in a lot of ways, Satan is more powerful and crafty today largely due to technology and the speed of how information can be sent around the world. Someone’s message can reach thousands and millions of people very quickly. And with the age of social media; ideas can be spread and go viral very quickly.

It is, therefore, so easy for a worker of evil to disguise oneself as an angel of light. Just consider the prosperity gospel preachers out there; preaching a gospel of peace and health and success in this life and nothing more. They stand in front of millions of people and wave their Bibles around (“dressed” as an angel of light) all the while leading people down the path of destruction. Satan has got to be licking his chops today.

And because there are so many wolves running around in sheep’s clothing; as sheep we need to be on the look out. We need to be testing the spirits as 1 John teaches us. We need to be cunning and discerning; not taking everything you read and hear to heart just because of who says it (and that means testing everything I write).

So how do we test the spirits? There is no one fool proof method but below are three questions to get you started:

(1) Does the messenger accuse you of being a sinner?
YES ~ Great, but this still could be Satan. In either case respond by saying, “I know but I have Jesus“.
NO ~ You have a wolf. The truth of who God is starts with the admission that you are a sinner in need of a Savior.

(2) Does the messenger preach Christ crucified and risen FOR YOU for the forgiveness of your sins?
YES ~ Praise be to God!!!
NO ~ You have a wolf. A servant/messenger of Christ is going to preach this for this is THE Good News, and therefore, this Good News can not be said enough.

(3) Does the messenger promise peace and security in this life?
YES ~ You have a wolf. No where in the Bible does Jesus promise an easy life for his followers. Actually, he says you will have a cross. Be skeptical of messages that promise the easy life now through X-number of easy steps.
NO ~ Then you have a follower of Jesus who is actually following Jesus.

Granted, this is not a full proof testing system here, but it is a start. Basically, know your Bible, pray without ceasing and rely on the Holy Spirit. There will be wolves that will try to circumvent these questions, so beware. The wolves are out there, prowling around waiting for someone to devour. Don’t be their next meal.

Oh holy God, grant us a discerning mind to test the spirits and to be able to see the wolves in sheep clothing. May we be diligent in our study of scripture and may we seek your Holy Spirit. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Fighting God (Exodus 14:14)

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” [Exodus 14:14]

This short, little verse captured my heart this morning; as God spoke words of comfort after a very long and difficult day.

But first the context of this verse…

The Israelites are being lead out of Egypt by God through Moses and Aaron. God commands the group to head towards the Red Sea and set up camp. Once there, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and he comes out with everything he has to capture those slaves again.

God did this to show God’s glory.

As they are beside the Red Sea the people see Pharaoh and his army and are scared silly (and a little angry that Moses lead them out here to die). Moses then speaks the word of the Lord to them:

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Basically, no need to worry, God has this. You don’t even need to raise one finger. Trust God. God will fight this battle.

With that God parted the Red Sea, the people walked across on dry ground and the rest is history. Praise be to God!

And I needed that verse this morning. Without going into all the details, yesterday was a long and nerve fraying day. I had been up since 2:30 AM with a 4 month old who refused to be put down. My wife was out of town for work. I had two kids not feeling well; both demanding attention and it seemed like at the same time all the time. My toddler was being naughty because she wasn’t getting the attention she demanded. And my 4 month old was difficult to sooth. When I would try to put the younger one down for a nap, the older one would come in crying; waking up the younger.

My emotions and nerves were frayed and I found myself on the verge of tears a number of times. Lots of praying ensued and when Connie finally got home I just crashed.

And then I read this verse this morning:  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.

[Cue the tears]

Amen!
Praise be to God!
Alleluia!
Thank you!

Have you ever felt defeated or nearly pushed over the edge?
Have you ever felt like the world was ganging up on you?
Have you ever felt like Satan’s onslaughts were going to destroy you?

Have you been there? That was me yesterday, but God fought for me even though I was trying to fight. And this morning God reminded me to give it up to him next time. Satan may try to destroy me in so many ways, and on my own I have no chance but God will fight for me. And God will fight for you.

What an awesome promise.
What a faithful God.

Through Jesus Christ God has defeated Satan but Satan is still trying do as much damage as possible until that day when God makes him a footstool for is Son. So when you see the forces of Satan baring down on you; do not be afraid. The salvation of the Lord has been won for you through faith in Jesus so therefore the Lord will fight for you and the Lord WILL win.

Praise be to God and Alleluia!!!

Thank you, powerful God, that you fight for me. When the forces of evil are marching against me, you are there to push them back. May I have the sight of Elisha to see the chariots of fire around me and may I rest in your promises, oh God. May you be praised, always and forever. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Filling the hole

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” [Luke 4:8]

Jesus was offered power and prestige and influence and fame. Jesus was offered the world.

But there was a catch (isn’t there always)…

…Jesus had to bow down and worship the prince of this world, Satan. He had to give away his heart and soul for something that would never last. Simply pledge his allegiance to the worker of death and Jesus would have “his heart’s desire”. The problem is that Jesus’ heart’s desire is YOU, not this world and so Satan was spinning his wheels with Jesus, but he gets plenty of headway with us.

As sinners, we seek after that which only leads to death. Satan offers us the world and we take the deal. Satan offers us pleasures now and we take the deal. Satan offers us peace now and we take the deal. The problem is that our true heart’s desire is not in this world. We were made for God but with sin in the picture we have a God shaped hole in our heart that we try to fill with other pursuits. And Satan is more than glad to help you fill that hole with anything and everything that is not God.

But the hole NEVER gets filled.

Sometimes a deal comes along that seems to fit pretty well, but not perfectly. But it’s better than nothing so we follow the giver of this gift and pledge our allegiance. We give our souls to the pursuit of money and more money. We put vicarious living into that God-shaped hole; thinking our children’s athletic success will satisfy; but it never does. We listen to Satan’s sales pitch that includes fame and success and power and we’re intrigued; not putting any consideration into the price of the deal. We give our hearts away to the gods of this world, through sin, hoping and hoping that the hole gets filled.

But the hole NEVER gets filled…that way.

Jesus says, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.

This command is a gift.

This command is one that turns our attention to God; who is worthy, because of what God does to fill that God-shaped hole in your heart. Jesus’ death and resurrection is what is takes to fill that hole, anything else will leave gaps that will ooze and drain life and peace out of you. Nothing that Satan offers will fill the gaps. Nothing that this world promises will stop the follow of life and peace out of you.

Nothing, nothing, nothing!

If you want that hole in your heart completely and totally filled, then Jesus is it. So when the too-good-to-be-true deal comes your way, simply look Satan in the face and say:

You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.

Praise be to God and Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The reason to glorify God

[Now that I have had a pot of coffee and am functioning somewhat normally, I am ready for that “thoughtful” word. Hopefully I won’t be as random as I was this morning :-)]

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. [Romans 11:36]

Think about that benediction for a moment…

From God all things/people exist.
Through God all things/people are allowed to exist and thus sustained.
And therefore all things/people belong to God and will return to God.

I think about this and have great joy in my heart; that my life is from God and is sustained by God and that I belong to God. This is comforting especially considering the fact that we live in a messed up world. We live in a world were there is war and terrorism and cancer and abuse and death and hatred and sin and the depressing list goes on. We live in a world that is uncertain and a world that will not last.

But I do not belong to the world
I belong to God through Jesus Christ.

Through God I came into being.
Through God I am sustained.
To God I will return.

What an joyous thought.
What a hopeful outlook.
What a victorious picture.

And therefore all glory and honor and worship be to God our Father through Jesus Christ. If you need to reason to glorify God, then think about where you came from, who sustains you and where you will return through faith in Jesus. That thought alone should cause much rejoicing in the face of Satan’s reign of death.

Oh the look on Satan’s face when he sees that his rule is finally over.
Oh the joy of living in God’s kingdom.
Oh the hope
Oh the peace

Praise be to God and Amen!

The (fully awake) Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ THE War on Terror

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [Galatians 5:16-17]

We are at war.

No, I am not talking about the war on terror but it is close. This is the war against the flesh; sinful desires. And this is a war that has been going on since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden in Genesis 3. And it is a war in which Satan is relentless for he knows what he is up against: Weak human beings.

The problem for many is that they don’t realize they are at war. It is hard to fight a battle if you don’t arm yourself. But worse yet, you are not going to fight a war unless you first declare war. You need to be ready and that means knowing who your opponent is, where the war is being fought, what is at stake and what your assets are.

Opponent ~ Satan
Location ~ The flesh
What’s at stake ~ Your soul
Assets ~ Jesus

Your biggest weapon in this “war on terror” is walking in the Spirit; staying close to God in Jesus Christ. That means staying in scripture; being in prayer; living a life of worship; studying the Word; having regular fellowship with believers. If you arm yourself in such a way, you are giving yourself the upper hand, not because you are so smart or strong but rather, through faith, you are submitting to the one who already fought the battle and won the war.

That’s right, the war has already been won, but the battle still goes on. It’s a backwards way of doing things but Satan is still trying to take down as many people as he can before Jesus comes again to claim his prize once and for all. But don’t despair, God is not throwing you to the wolves in the interim. You are here to glorify God in this life and bring others to him. You’re not alone.

Fight this battle with the flesh as you walk along side the one who has won the war for you: Jesus Christ. Declare war on Satan and realize temptation is all around you. Stand strong and hold firm to hope of the resurrection.

So go into battle today, ready and willing to fight, all to the glory of God.

Praise be to God and Amen!

The Pastor -|—

Seek the Lord

I lift up my eyes to the hills
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out
and you coming in from this
time forth and forevermore.
[Psalm 121]

This is my wife’s favorite Psalm.

When I am gone overnight she keeps this close by and reads it over and over.  You see…she doesn’t like staying in our haunted parsonage by herself.  O.K…maybe it’s not haunted but with the bats scratching their way in the walls and all the creaking boards one would be tempted to think the house is alive.  Someone once told my wife that the spirits of Salem’s former pastors were walking around and looking out for her.  For some reason that didn’t help 🙂

My wife hasn’t told me specifically but my guess is that she finds comfort in the fact that God is not sleeping and that God is watching over her and …

 “The Lord will keep you from all evil”

I have to admit…there is something very comforting about that phrase.  There is evil all around us and I do not doubt that Satan is using those strange noises in our house to get my wife to doubt God’s presence and sovereignty.  Satan will do whatever he can to get us to believe that we are alone; that God has left us.

God hasn’t left us and never will.

God is our help.
God is our peace.
God in our life.

Where do you turn for help?
Where do your eyes look when fears ravage you?
Who do you seek for safety?
Who do you run to for shelter?

The Lord will keep your going out
and you coming in from this
time forth and forevermore.

Lift your eyes” and seek the Lord…and don’t let spooks and goblins (or Satan) drive you to despair, but trust in the Lord’s presence and strength.  He will keep your life and bring you home through Jesus Christ…and there is nothing Satan can do about that.  Wrap your heart around that blessed assurance and sleep well tonight knowing that God is not sleeping and that God has your back.

edh -|—

Victory over darkness

I believe there is much darkness and chaos in the world.

I believe that Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

I believe that the forces of evil are looking for every opportunity to bring down faithful, God-fearing Christians.

I believe God loves the world SO much.

I believe God heard and hears the cries of creation.

I believe Jesus is the Word of God.

I believe Jesus died on the cross.

I believe Jesus rose from the grave for the forgiveness of my sins.

I believe Jesus conquered death…

…and Satan…

…and sin…

…and all the forces of evil.

I believe that I have the victory through Jesus Christ.

Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthains 15:55-57)

I believe…

-edh-